May 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 1 Comment by
My ten-day adventure hiking through the Patagonia mountains in the extreme south of Chile and Argentina was without a doubt the most physically-challenging, but also the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. We started with the W trail of Torres del Paine national park outside of Puerto Natales, Chile with three nights and four days of hiking through every type of terrain imaginable and camping in freezing temperatures. Due to poor planning, we ended up embarking on our trip at the end of high season, and going into the low season, which starts on May 1st. In the end of April and beginning of May begins the transition into the winter months in the Patagonia and, for this season, the park has much stricter rules and regulations for hikers because of the added danger (and liability) of the more volatile weather. Although this made things significantly more difficult from a planning perspective, it was totally worth it to be able to experience the trail during the fall season with the colors of the changing leaves. The combination of the white snowy peaks of the mountains against the black rock of their bases, the translucent blue of glacial ice in the distance and the blazing oranges and reds of the trees left me feeling dizzy and drunk on the incomprehensible beauty around me.
I went into the trip with the intention of writing in the tent every night so that I could capture every memory, every feeling at it’s very freshest point of expression. But after we set up camp and made dinner at the end of each day, I could barely keep my eyes open long enough to zip up my sleeping bag, much less express my thoughts in a coherent and appealing manner. Conversations amongst ourselves and the other backpackers that we met in the communal cooking areas of the campsites were an amusing jumble of obvious statements and delirious, winding stories tumbling from exhaustion-clouded brains. Luckily, the basic introductions usually carried us over until we could get food in our stomachs, which helped immensely with the amount of brain power available to donate to conversation. Most of the people we met on the trail were around our age, many of them also students, and within our interactions existed a kind of raw, childish excitement, like we were all just a bunch of overgrown kids running around splashing in creeks and looking for adventure. The adrenaline high we rode through the trees formed bonds of shared incredulity, bonds I won’t soon forget. Read More »
May 8th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 4 Comments by
Valparaiso has begun to feel more and more like home. I have yet to experience the fall after the high that the IFSA program directors warned us to expect. I think they referred to it as the readjustment stage or something along those lines. A name for when the initial charm of all things new and exciting begins to take on a stale flavor in your mouth. You are no longer so overwhelmed by the thrill of change and, thus, no longer blinded to the not-so-charming aspects of your new home. This transition creates a “low period” until you are able to reach “full cultural adjustment.” This can take on a number of forms (homesickness, anger, frustration) and differs widely based on the person, or so they say.
But, for me, I think I genuinely skipped this stage. This is not to say that I am blind to the litter on the street or deaf to the (at times exceedingly vulgar) catcalls of construction workers, and I definitely no longer walk around with a giant smile plastered on my face all the time like I did for the first few weeks. But I have yet to experience anything that I think could be described as a low period. Overall, I have continued to feel very fortunate and serene in my new home. I feel a certain satisfaction in having gotten to know the city well enough to appreciate the ugly alongside the beautiful. I never experienced any striking moments of culture shock. Every day has been so full of new things to experience and people to meet that I haven’t had time to think about being homesick. For this reason, I am a bit nervous that my culture shock will come when I return to the U.S. in July and my world shrinks back to size. Read More »
May 8th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 1 Comment by
About two weeks ago, I experienced my first real earthquake here in Chile and, I have to say, it was much more terrifying than I had anticipated. For some reason, I had never really understood the panic about earthquakes. I mean, as long as no buildings collapse, it’s just a little vibration, right? Wrong. As it turns out, I am not a huge fan of them. There’s something deeply unsettling about the fact that the earth, which we often conceptualize to be the most physically stable thing in our lives, can suddenly begin to move underfoot.
I was walking back to my house with a friend when it happened. It probably only lasted for about 20 seconds in total but it felt like longer as we watched the cement buildings around us shake. Strangely enough, my first reaction was equal parts fear and excitement, as if all of that raw energy traveling through the earth’s tectonic plates had continued on through the soles of my feet and up my spine, terrifying yet strangely intoxicating. There was no visible damage where we were standing, so my friend and I shrugged it off and went on our way. I became more unsettled, however, when people started coming out of their houses onto the street and asking us if we were alright. Everyone was wide-eyed and tight lipped and their anxiety made my own heart begin to race.
The streets of my neighborhood suddenly felt eerily unfamiliar. The air cracked with a kind of strange anticipation, as if houses and residents alike were holding their breath to see what might happen next. The only sounds to be heard were the chorus of car alarms going off from the tremors and the dial tones of my neighbors’ phones as they called their loved ones across town. One man told us that we should save our water in case it got shut off and recommended that we go straight home. As the aftershocks started and the tsunami evacuation alarm sounded, the initial ignorant excitement of my first earthquake faded and I decided that he was probably right. Read More »
January 16th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by
Hey guys! My name is Kate Leahy and I’m a sophomore Speech-Language Pathology Major studying at the University of Tulsa. I’m from St. Louis, MO and excited to spend my semester at the National University of Ireland, Galway! Follow my journey as I explore this beautiful city, some of the country, and hopefully a few other adventures around Europe.
One week in Galway, Ireland includes departure, a city tour, trying to find campus, good food, live music, trying Guinness for the first time(!!!), getting lost (at least) four times, exploring down the coast, and making new friends! Read More »
August 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | 2 Comments by
This post is being written under much more stress than the previous two as I’m quickly realizing, to my dismay, that the studying aspect of study abroad is very real. Having just completed Week 3 of classes, assignments, papers, presentations, and project due dates are approaching much more rapidly than expected. I have always been the type to organize and plan my schoolwork well in advance, but adjusting to the new self-taught style of learning here has made it much more difficult. Advice — pencil in your assignment due dates in a planner straight away so that when planning trips you don’t accidentally journey to another country the day before a 2500 word essay is due (oops). Although the idea of schoolwork is still hard to grasp, I’ve enjoyed the courses I’m enrolled in. I was extremely hesitant to follow through with my “Performance: Production and Interpretation” theater class given that I’m majoring in Biology back home, but thus far I’ve actually been intrigued by the plays we’ve had to see. Side note: I’ve had a hard time grasping the spelling differences between American and Australian English. Theatre vs theater. Colonisation vs colonization. Colour vs color. I’ve also been keeping note of some of my favorite slang terms used by Australians. “Arvo” for afternoon. “Fairy floss” for cotton candy. “Brekky” for breakfast. “Heaps” for a lot/really/very (as in there’s heaps to do in Bondi or I’m heaps keen to go out tonight). Not sure if I’ll ever catch on but I never cease to be intrigued by their lingo. Read More »
July 11th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, College Study Abroad | No Comments by
I’m Rachel, a girl who grew up in a tight-knit town in Oregon, USA, and moved to go to college in sunny Southern California. Now I’ll be traveling halfway across the globe to Wollongong, Australia, to study at the University of Wollongong just south of Sydney! Needless to say I’m excited beyond belief, but maybe I really have no idea what I’ll be getting myself into here by flying over 15 hours away from my home, but I think that’s most of the appeal of studying abroad. It’s the same as the day you walked into kindergarten, then high school, and especially into college: you have no idea who you’ll meet, what types of new situations you’ll end up in, and how much you will inevitably change in the end. Personally, I’m most excited about learning how to understand Australian slang and how their culture differs from America’s, as well as enjoying the beauty of the Australian coast and (hopefully!) exploring with some fellow students to as many cities as I can possibly fit into four months!
At my home University I study Environmental Business which is a balance of Environmental Science and Business Management, and am hoping to learn more about Australia’s laws about environmental responsibility on local, regional, and national scales while abroad! Also very, very interested in learning where the best bars are and what the best food is, so stay tuned to see some adventures involving my taste buds as well as my suit cases. Speaking of suitcases, packing is an adventure all in itself. I’m planning to travel as lightly as I can (HA), and can’t even count how many Pins I’ve saved about packing strategies, capsule wardrobes, and travel hacks. In the end, I know I’m not walking into the middle of the bush and can buy anything I forget once I arrive, and it’s a much better plan of action to pack less and save space for the souvenirs and items I’ll no doubt acquire while gone.
Am I excited? Undoubtedly. Am I nervous? Oh yeah. But I also realize that leaving on this trip will be an incredible step forward in my life that many people don’t have the opportunity to take, and I plan on appreciating every second that I’m abroad and soaking up the culture, friendships, and definitely the delicious foods I am lucky enough to experience (priorities on the food though, amiright?). As I prepare myself to leave, I feel like I’m saying “sayonara” to a small part of myself that still prioritizes staying in my comfort zone, and welcoming in some extra confidence to keep my head up and my heart open to whatever and whoever walks into my path. Wish me luck as I finish up my packing and make the long trek out to Sydney, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share next time!